Mike Hiles, Special to Valley News
Yawaywish Laupsa-Briones graduated from Great Oak High School in May, and Monday, July 13, she started her training at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. Of 13,000 applications received, the school chose 1,210 new cadets. Academic classes will begin after four weeks of basic training.
“West Point is an opportunity of a lifetime, and I did not want to miss it,” the 18-year-old member of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians said. “The reason I chose West Point was the great student body, the staff and their willingness to always help, its softball program and the ability to serve our country as an Army officer after I graduate.”
President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation in 1802 establishing the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to ensure those attending the school would be representative of a democratic society. Initially designed to focus on civil engineering, the school’s curriculum has expanded to encompass science, technology and the humanities.
“My plan is to major in mechanical engineering and minor in business,” Laupsa-Briones said. “The job I hope to receive (after enlistment in the U.S. Army) is engineer officer where I will design, build and maintain machinery.”
The softball standout also is looking forward to playing on the school’s team all four years she attends. She played club ball for the Semper Fi Bulldogs John Lucero 18u team in Murrieta for years.
“With all the traveling I have done with club sports, it does not help with moving across the country,” Laupsa-Briones said. “I am optimistic, but being far away from family will be quite hard.”
She attended a softball camp at West Point before she applied and said the campus reminded her of the Soboba Reservation, which could be helpful as she transitions to her new home.
“It is an honor to get into such an establishment,” Laupsa-Briones said. “I also received a scholarship from Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc., which was a tremendous help in getting all of my supplies for the upcoming school year.”
Because of COVID-19 and the interruption to in-person school activities, no senior awards were presented, but Laupsa-Briones earned a 4.0 GPA on her final report and said that was a good enough reward for all the hard work she put in and all that she accomplished. She had some advice for younger students who haven’t found their own path yet.
“For those who are debating to leave home and go to college, do it. The world is full of opportunities that need to be taken,” she said. “If you don’t know how to go about pursuing your dreams, talk to an elder or someone in your field of interest as they will be more than willing to share their story and what they have done to make it a perfect career. By talking with a veteran, I was able to decide my career.”